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See you at the book do

It is fun to got a book launch and later curl up with a book in the evening. SERISH NANISETTI spots the trend

Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

Catch me reading Syeda Imam who edited The Untold Charminar was almost mobbed at the book release function

There was no hush and nobody said sushhh! As laughter filled the room as easily as perfume it was difficult to divine that this was a celebration of a book. Books usually meant sepulchral silence. No longer. Books now spell bonhomie, camaraderie and an attitude as booksellers create the ambiance and fish talent like expert anglers. Caught buying a book no longer means that you are a snobbish high-brow nor does it mean that you are reading to keep up appearances. It means you read.

One index of mainstreaming of the reading habit in Hyderabad is the series of book launches which have become big items on social registers. They are the places to be seen and heard. If it was Shobha De yesterday and Syeda Imam today then it is going to be Anirban Bose tomorrow (July 5) and within no time it is going to be Amitav Ghosh (July 24). Okay, Jeffrey Archer gave a miss to the city. So what? Hyderabad is no longer the way-station it was perceived as Shyam Benegal confessed while releasing the book on Hyderabad. It is also a destination.

Success formula

The publisher prepares a list, the hotel hosting the event prepares a list and the author prepares a list. Put the list together and you have the makings of a perfect evening. The writer is an amiable person and travels across the cities where the publisher organises the event. Voila! You have a successful launch.

On Monday evening, during the city launch of Untold Charminar, the raconteurs who took stage did not just speak from memory. They used the book as a take off point. There was Aminuddin Shafi, there was Begum Latif, there was Shyam Benegal and there was Shankar Melkote. If two of the panellists contributed to the anthology, then the others filled in with their anecdotes.

If Syeda Bilgrami Imam is the editor of the Untold Charminar, it is no accident. As a Penguin spokesperson gave the formula: “This book is part of the city series. Where the best writings are brought together and the book speaks to a globalised world and its appeal is not limited to any one place.”

Part of the appeal also lies with the rise of Indian non-fiction. The audience at Shobha De’s book launch might be easily dismissed as a socialite evening. But it would be difficult to explain the success of Karen Leonard’s Locating Home which is an academic tome with pages and pages of indices and cross-referencing. And to think that Locating Home was launched not in a five-star hotel but in a small office in the presence of an intimate gathering. Ditto for the panel discussion on The Untold Charminar in a bylane in Gaganmahal on the lawns of Rasna Vidyasagar’s home.

All you need is a book, an author, Hyderabadis are ready to read.

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